The Fall of Jericho
“At the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout, for the LORD has given you the city’ ” (v. 16).- Joshua 6
Ancient cities were typically surrounded by walls that would help prevent them from being captured by invading armies. When the gates of such cities were shut, it was incredibly difficult for armies to conquer these towns. When the Israelite army came to Jericho, they found the city gates closed as a defense against the invading people of God (Josh. 6:1). If the Israelites were to capture Jericho, they would need excellent military strategy.
Given this, many Israelites no doubt found it strange when they were instructed to march around the city once a day for six days with priests blowing trumpets, and then to do the same thing seven times on the seventh day, and then to shout in order to bring down Jericho’s walls (vv. 2–7). Surely, such a strategy made victory seem far-fetched to at least the more experienced fighters. Still, this was what God told them to do. Since He was fighting for Israel (5:13–15; see Deut. 1:30), it was ultimately His battle, so He had the right to determine how it was to be waged. And what happened when the Israelites fought God’s battle according to the ways God ordered? The walls of Jericho fell and the Israelites conquered the city, putting to death every human and animal in the city except Rahab and her family (Josh. 6:8–25).
A brief word is in order concerning the total destruction of the people in Jericho. Many non-Christians use this story to cast God as a bloodthirsty tyrant, and even many believers have difficulty imagining how the Lord could order such a thing. In fact, the Old Testament makes it clear that the Israelites were to annihilate all the peoples of Canaan (Deut. 20:16–18). It is worth noting, however, that the Israelites were given this instruction only for a limited time and in a limited area. It was not as if they were supposed to invade and conquer the entire world in such a way. Furthermore, the Canaanites were guilty of vile sins (Lev. 18), so they had earned this judgment at the hand of the Israelites. And in reality, although other people may be guilty of different sins than the sins of Canaan, all of us stand condemned and worthy of the wrath of God apart from His grace (Rom. 1:18–3:20). The destruction of Jericho and other Canaanite cities foreshadows the greater wrath to come for the impenitent.
Finally, as the example of Rahab shows, Canaanites could escape destruction by trusting in the God of Israel (Josh. 2; 6:22–25). That remains true today for all people. Any sinner who turns to the God of Israel through faith in Christ alone will be saved (Rom. 10:13).
God has called His people into a spiritual battle, which we must fight according to God’s ways. If we follow our own strategies, we will surely fail, but the Lord will bless us when we fight according to the means He has given us—prayer, the sacraments, and the preaching of the Word of God. Through these means, God brings people into His kingdom, so let us emphasize these in our churches and in our everyday lives.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 16:34
2 Corinthians 10:1–6